A $35,000 upgrade is expected to give the Wellington Schools more reliable Internet access and stop kids from looking at inappropriate material during classes.
Starfish Computer Corporation of Westlake has been hired to modernize the district’s network at a cost far below the initial $100,000 estimate.
“One of the reasons we thought this was a good idea is the students are a lot smarter with technology than most people are,” district computer technician Jim Perchinske told the Wellington school board June 14. “Through apps, especially with their phones, we’ve found that students were able to circumvent our in-house firewall.”
A new system called Watchguard will help lock down access to inappropriate sites, he said.
Some students have learned how to wipe their browsing history. Watchguard will let administrators see exactly what websites kids have visited even if they try to cover their tracks.
Principal Tina Drake refused to confirm whether “inappropriate” sites have included pornography or other materials.
Consolidating an aging group of servers from 25 down to two was another important step in the process, according to Starfish engineer Richard Henry.
“They were taking up a lot of power, heat, and energy,” he said. “There were racks full of nothing but fans and power supplies.”
And in the event of a crash at one school, the new system will maintain access at the other two. That wasn’t the case before and led to a number of headaches during the demolition of the former McCormick Middle School, Henry said.
“There were a lot of servers aging in terms of the operating system that was on them,” said Starfish service manager Adam Walker. “There were systems that are no longer supported by Microsoft. We have upgraded every single on of your servers, getting you out of harm’s way there.”
Starfish also upgraded the district’s network switches, which control Internet traffic between the servers and to each device using the network. The new switches have a lifetime warranty as opposed to the monthly fee that came along with the old ones, Walker said.
“The new switches combined with the close proximity of Wellington’s schools will create connection speeds that are impossible in many other school districts,” said Henry.
Desktop virtualization was also discussed. It involves using the network to store students’ data and school work instead of on individual devices. It would allow the district to use $200 laptops instead of ones that cost roughly $1,000 each.
“The cost savings of buying the cheaper laptops offsets the cost of installing the server,” Walker said. “The student can be at home or at their grandmother’s house in Florida and still access their desktop as if they’re here at the school.”
Using virtualization will also reduce the time and manpower needed to clean off computers during summer breaks, removing software that shouldn’t have been installed by kids.
“All of the desktops can be refreshed at any time. If Jim needs to install new software, he can do it on one computer and push it out to the rest overnight. The next day it is done,” Walker said.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Jim Perchinske and Starfish Computer’s Adam Walker and Richard Henry inform the Wellington school board of progress made in the district’s Web infrastructure.